Rep. Stephen Sandstrom said the delay for his committee hearing on his enforcement-only immigration reform bill was due to last-minute changes in the language at the suggestion of Gov. Gary Herbert and local government officials.
The Orem Republican was supposed to have had the hearing on HB70 Wednesday afternoon, but it has now been changed to 2 p.m. Friday.
"I wasn't ready today," Sandstrom said Wednesday. "I'm still working on language that won't compromise the integrity of the bill while addressing some recent concerns that were brought up."
Some of those concerns center around suggestions made by Herbert though Sandstrom wouldn't say specifically what those changes were. He also said there might be some adjustments in a nod to local law enforcement concerns allowing the changing of wording in the bill from "shall" require to "may" require local police to check legal status when pulled over for a minor traffic infraction.
By giving police that discretion, he said, it would alleviate concerns of police spending time and resources acting as federal immigration officers.
Ally Isom, spokeswoman for Herbert, said the governor "appreciates [Sandstrom's] efforts to address the enforcement side of the immigration issue" but also issued a word of caution.
"The representative has made several meaningful changes in the bill," Isom said. "After meeting with Representative Sandstrom, the governor reiterated that he felt strongly that local government should not be burdened with the cost for the enforcement component."
The lawmaker has taken issue with the fiscal note attached to his bill and complained about the methodology used to calculate the $5.3 million to $11.3 million cost attached to his legislation by the legislative fiscal analyst. Those figures drew concerns from cities worried it would strain already cash-strapped budgets.
But Sandstrom said he thinks by making the changes, it could reduce the fiscal note to zero.
But not everyone is sold on the latest adjustments to his bill.
Paul Mero, president of the Sutherland Institute, said Sandstrom is trying to "save face" by watering down the bill.
"He's discounting the bill to the point people will buy it," Mero said.
Sandstrom has already been accused by some of whittling away key components of the bill that was originally modeled after Arizona's law. Sandstrom said he's been called a "betrayer" by making changes that include not allowing police to question the legal status of passengers in a car when it's the driver who was pulled over for an infraction. He also took some heat when he pulled a provision out that would've required school resource officials to question legal status.
But he said the changes he's making to the bill have "already been run up the flagpole" with groups like the Utah Minuteman Project and lawyers from the Immigration Reform Law Institute. He said all have endorsed the changes.
Ron Mortensen, spokesman for the Utah Coalition on Illegal Immigration, said he also approved of the tweaks to the legislation.
"Representative Sandstrom is taking into consideration the concerns of the League of Cities and Towns," Mortensen said. "Based on their recommendations, we believe the bill is even stronger than before their input."
Sandstorm also plans to provide more relief to the fiscal note by running a separate bill that would tack on a fee to all monetary wire transfers between Utah and a foreign country.
Robert Gehrke contributed to this story.